Manufacturers of flu vaccine effortlessly distributed a record 193 million shots this season, even as makers of the Covid-19 vaccine have labored to deliver fewer than 60 million doses and states have struggled to get the shots into arms.
The disparity makes the Covid-19 response look like a train wreck—but differences between the flu and coronavirus vaccines explain some (if not all) of the difference.
In a nutshell, there are fewer makers and distributors of the Covid-19 vaccine. It must be frozen at ultracold temperatures, making it difficult to ship and store. Full immunization requires two shots, compared with one for the flu. And because the serum is brand new, health-care providers must allow additional time to monitor patients for potential adverse reactions.
All of this must be documented to ensure the scarce vaccine isn’t wasted; allergic reactions are captured; and second doses, which must be administered within a certain time frame, are properly executed.
“The challenge is that state health departments have to exquisitely monitor doses as they go in arms,” said Litjen Tan, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, an organization that distributes information about vaccines in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “With the flu shot, you get it and go away.”